SI Vault
Edited by Gay Flood
October 23, 1978
ZEBRASSir: William O. Johnson says it all about horrendous officiating in the NFL (It's Open Season on the Zebras, Oct. 9). If the refs had the ability to admit it when they are wrong it would be a major breakthrough. However, because they don't, the instant replay seems to be the way to go. If there is a questionable call by an official, the coach can ask for the replay. If the replay doesn't show definite evidence of a bad call, then let the original call stand.
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October 23, 1978

19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

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What Tommy Bell fails to understand is that the fans are interested in the fallibility of the players, not the officials. Let's have our surprise packages based on the actions of the players, not on peculiar calls by the officials.
New York City

The Yankees were 59-49 at the two-thirds point in 1977. In 1978 they were also 59-49 at the same point. They finished 41-13 under Billy Martin in 1977, and 41-14 under Bob Lemon this year. The fact is, the team is a strong finisher, regardless of who is managing. In 1974, under Bill Virdon, the Yanks finished 36-18 after a 53-55 start. That was another year in which the Red Sox proved to be a late-fading team. Granted, the drama of the most recent surge was the most intense because of the size of the deficit and the closeness of the race at the wire.

It has been my wish not to enter into the discussion on the brutality of the modern game of American football and I trust this letter will not further the conflicting dialogue that the series on brutality elicited (An Unfolding Tragedy, Aug. 14 et seq.). But I did wonder what tenderfoot convinced the writer of the series that pursuit and gang tackling, along with the present headgear, contributed to a form of lethal destruction. Football is not a dainty game.

The final article in the series became hopelessly bogged down in recommendations, most of which are partially covered by the present rules.

Probably the writer is too young to have any definitive information on the game that led to Teddy Roosevelt's warning. I remember well when, as a player, I was greeted by a line coach who started every session with "Let's see some blood." I recall the death of West Point Cadet Eugene Byrne in 1909. I was an assistant coach at the Academy in 1931 when Army's Dick Sheridan was fatally injured in the Yale Bowl, so I'm less impressed by "the thunder already being heard."

But I do not scold. Rather, I believe there is a way to slow down excessive defensive enthusiasm and eliminate cheap shots, late hits, out-of-bounds hits and misdirected attention to throwing quarterbacks. I suggest assessing the present penalty for violations and, in addition, in flagrant cases banning the player for three minutes, but, unlike hockey, letting a substitute be inserted into the game. I know of no better way to quiet emotions than to have a penalized player sit on the bench watching his substitute take his place, all the while mulling over his headhunting and uncalled-for personal fouls.
Las Vegas

Regarding your item on racing pigs in SCORECARD (Oct. 2), trainer Roy Holding was a tad optimistic in his claim that a 2.9-second, 40-foot sprint extrapolates to a 5.7-minute mile. In fact, it is a 6.4-minute-mile pace. However, while a feed dish motivated the chubby speedsters in the "40," Holding did not mention what would loom on the horizon at the mile mark. If he ever does get a pig to run a 5.7-minute mile, I'd like to know the brand name of that bacon; to cook it you'd have to add your own fat.
New York City

Shame on Clive Gammon (A Date with Nemesis, Oct. 2). If he keeps knocking away at those stripers, he'll bring on a nemesis of a different sort—namely short seasons and severe limits on the already dwindling supply of bass. Three-quarters of a ton of stripers is more than an indulgence, it's a slaughter—a vain display that takes the sport out of sportfishing.
Los Angeles

I respectfully take exception to the comments of John Kellogg, my DePauw University "fraternity father" (19TH HOLE, Sept. 25). One-platoon football, which Kellogg advocates, was a boon only to the "iron man" type of player, who survived because he was the fittest. Excluded from participation in the game were many skilled athletes whose primary assets were speed or the ability to pass, receive or kick. Since the advent of two-platoon football, thousands of athletes who once would have languished on the bench—or quit the squad—have had an opportunity to compete and excel.

In studying Big Ten rosters for 1958, when single-platoon football was flourishing, I note that the average number of lettermen returning per school from the 1957 season was 19.8. This figure remained fairly constant, rising to 20.7 in 1959, falling to 19.0 in 1960. In contrast, my study of the 1978 Big Ten rosters shows an average of 39.5 lettermen returning per school. Thus, in 20 years, participation has increased 100%.

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